“If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, hey, I’ll go home to the people that have supported me and been behind me this whole time.”
That’s Ricky Romero, as quoted in a Shi Davidi piece at Sportsnet last week about the potential of his call-up to the Jays, not-so-subtly giving credence to some of the things we’ve heard– particularly, I think, on the radio from Jeff Blair– about Romero’s bizarre unhappiness with the way he feels the organization has treated him as he his career has continued speeding away from him in 2013.
I say bizarre, of course, because– while I don’t know the grimy details of the relationship behind the scenes– I’m not sure what the hell Romero expected here.
Does being “behind” a player mean letting him go out and get his head caved in for sixty starts?
I guess I understand the anger and frustration in Romero– who pitched to a 5.68 ERA in Buffalo this year, with lefties hitting him to the tune of an effing 1.004 OPS– but it just isn’t really plausible that where he’s at is for a lack of support from the club for their former All-Star, who is still owed $15.6-million after this season. They have far too much invested in him, and have had far too much need for him to be right to not be looking out for him– even if it’s sometimes misguided and even if it really comes down to self interest.
That said, I’m not sure I entirely agree with the thesis about the call-up posited by Dirk Hayhurst at Sportsnet today, as he suggests that, in addition to being about money, for the club, “the hope is that by pulling Romero up and getting him back into some big league games in September, with playoff pressure long gone and the eyes of many fans diverted elsewhere, they’ll get Romero into controlled scenarios more conducive to success. Should Romero have success in these limited samples, he’ll (supposedly) get the psychological boost he needs to get back to 2011 form.”
Hayhurst cites myriad reasons why that’s not likely– the difficulty of finding spots to give work to a left-hander who can’t get left-handers out in a bullpen full of decent right-handers also needing work being paramount among them– and excoriates the Jays, because ”hoping to win a player some confidence by gambling on what might happen to him if what has been happening to him all season doesn’t continue to happen to him simply because he is now in the bigs, does not strike me as a sound business plan.”
Me either. But I don’t necessarily believe that’s the plan at all.
I do think Dirk’s right when he suggests Romero’s being here has a shit-tonne to do with money. But given what he says, and the somewhat-evident souring of the relationship, and the fact that someone who watched Romero as close as anybody this year– Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News– can, in an interesting-if-hopelessly-flawed piece about the deep disappointment of Jim Negrych not getting the call this year, scathingly write that “the callup of Romero and his 5.78 ERA is another column for another day but it’s an absolute joke,” I can’t help but wonder if maybe there’s more to it than the club using a big league spot as merely– as Hayhurst puts it– a psychiatrist’s office.
Frankly, at this point, I don’t know why the Jays would want to be in the Romero business at all.
To that end, I could be convinced to see the call-up as a gesture of good faith to a pitcher who feels he’s been wronged, as well as an attempt by the club to massage the narrative– to try to show to the league that they still believe in Romero. To let him display on the big league stage that, while the results may not, the stuff is still there. To put him in ideal spots to have success, not to help instil confidence in a pitcher they still hope to one day rely on once again, but in rival clubs who may see in Romero enough potential value to allow themselves, even in the tiniest way, to help unburden the Jays of some of his salary.
I’m usually wary of that kind of fanciful thinking from fans, mostly because I’m certain the league knows full well what Ricky Romero has been for the last two seasons. But I’m just not sure there’s a better way to possibly get out from under even a little of the contract at this point.
Romero now occupies a somewhat valuable 40-man roster spot, and he can’t be outrighted to the minors again without his consent– in that case he could, and almost certainly would, elect free agency (with the Jays being on the hook for what’s still owed him, less the amount of minor league or league-minimum deal he’d presumably sign elsewhere). If he keeps his roster spot until the spring, he can still be optioned to the minors– per Bluebird Banter he was added to the 40-man in late 2008 and wasn’t optioned until just this spring, so he has two remaining– but does anybody really want that?
Could even the best Spring Training in the world earn him a spot on the roster at this point? Not, I submit, unless the Jays fail miserably this winter in their quest to add reliable arms to their rotation, and… well… that simply can’t happen.
So would the Jays really want to keep him on the 40-man for another year? For what?
Maybe I’m again being too fan-ish here. The Jays, to their own benefit, have been far more patient that even I would have been with guys like Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind, so maybe there’s still genuine belief in Romero, and maybe there should be! But I don’t know… I’m just not able to be on board any longer, and I have a tough time fathoming why anybody else who has followed his career arc here closely would be either.
For their part, however, according to Gregor Chisholm’s transcript at North Of The Border of AA’s scrum with the media last week, the club is saying all the right things:
He abandoned those mechanical changes during the middle of the season. Does that add to the disappointment?
“No, not at all. Like we told him, I think any mechanical changes were made were done in conjunction with him. We weren’t going to do anything he wasn’t comfortable doing,he was part of the process but I don’t think anyone said this is the fix. We know, exactly this, will get you back on track. Take three weeks, four weeks, let’s try this. That’s a lot of what happens, it’s trial and error. We don’t know why, we have theories and beliefs but we can’t really be convinced why things have happened. If he ultimately believes he has found something that works for him, and he feels good about it, and he believes in it, that’s what you have to go with. So the fact that he had that type of belief, absolutely, we encouraged him, do what you feel is best. You know yourself better than anybody else but at the same time he was struggling, was trying to find some answers, worked with him in 2012 and tried some things, skipped a start, tried a lot of things, just couldn’t get him going.
But what’s really left to do here but to let a seemingly bad situation grow worse?
And in a pitching-desperate environment where a broken down Dan Haren still gets a $13-million deal? Where we debate until a damn month ago whether it’s worth qualifying Josh fucking Johnson? Where Ervin Santana puts up a 5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP, then gets dealt to a team willing to pay $12- of the $13-million owed him– and then goes out and has a great year??
It’s not entirely inconceivable that a team may think that, if he can be had for the right price, Romero might be worth trying to fix. And he might well be! But the Jays must certainly see themselves as better off using whatever salary of his they can free elsewhere, and they very possibly may see him as better off having a fresh start, too.
Call it a “showcase” if you have to, I guess– I know it makes the whole theoretical endeavour sound more bogus. And point out the fact that any team could have taken his contract for nothing this summer when he was outrighted, too. But I still think the Jays could possibly– maybe, theoretically– eat enough salary to find a taker.
I mean, if Vernon Wells’ deal can be traded, whose can’t?
So, as nice as it might be to not view it cynically, this call-up may actually be a step towards making Romero’s exit happen sooner– not towards righting his ship with the thought of the Jays ever relying on a dramatic return to form for themselves. I mean, it has to look at least slightly better to the market to have him here and failing, rather than indicating to the world that those who’ve seen him closest think he’s not even worthy of a call.
If it was about psychology for his sake, maybe, as Hayhurst suggests, they would be better off shielding him. If it’s about holding onto whatever little value he has left, making the suggestion that the ugly numbers from Buffalo were more about a pitcher with still-great stuff simply “trying to get right” and applying a number of fixes doesn’t sound like the craziest plan at this point, does it? I mean… what else can they really do?